Birth in the Time of COVIC-19

On March 16, 2020 my husband and I arrived at a greater New York City area hospital for my inducement. Two days later, on March 18th, our beautiful baby girl was born! As first-time parents, we were experiencing all the range of emotions - from excitement to pure joy to fear. These emotions were amplified tenfold due to the coronavirus pandemic. We were literally having a baby when the outbreak was really beginning to take off and at the epicenter.

Everyone told us births don't go according to plan, but ours was definitely more than unexpected due to the coronavirus. So here is our experience with giving birth at a hospital in the epicenter of it all.

Monday, March 16th

At 4:00pm we arrived at the hospital for my inducement. Normally the hospital lobby is bustling with people and the parking lot full. Not that day. The lobby was empty and the parking lot was empty. We were having the baby at a women's hospital that only handles labor and delivery. Going into the delivery at this time, I felt good about the choice because the hospital does not have an ER that would be overrun with COVID patients. In fact, there is no ER at all in this building. The women's hospital is a separate building on a campus with other hospitals. So I did feel we would be isolated from a majority of COVID patients, as those patients would be housed elsewhere.

At this time, only one support person was allowed in the hospital for labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum. So the entire time it would just be me and my husband - no other visitors. Although my mother was upset with this policy, we were comfortable with it because they were keeping patients safe and avoiding unnecessary exposures.

As soon as we entered, we received face masks we would wear for the remainder of our time at the hospital.

By 8:00pm I was receiving drugs to begin my inducement and slept for the evening.

Tuesday, March 17th

Happy St. Patrick's Day! All day the inducement barely moved forward. I continued to receive inducement medication throughout the day. Midday, I sneezed and my water broke! Yay! And I did start getting contractions during the day but they were too short and too close together. However, whenever I got a contraction the baby's heart rate dropped, so the nurses would then literally roll me side-to-side to get the baby's heart rate back up. It was an alarming and uncomfortable experience to say the least.

The nurses we had so far were great. They were kind and knowledgeable. I'll never know what they looked like because they always behind a mask.

By midnight I was only 5cm dilated. A long way away from the 10cm needed for delivery. However, my contractions were beginning to hurt my back. The baby was in a posterior position. Meaning the baby was facing head down, but her face was positioned toward my stomach instead of my back. This is often referred to as back labor and is extremely painful.

Wednesday, March 18th

At some point in the middle of the night, I received an epidural for my back pain. It was great! Highly recommend for all expecting ladies out there.

However, the inducement was still not moving forward. By early morning I was barely 7cm dilated. Also I had been rolled around all night by nurses to make sure the baby's heart rate was up when I got a contraction. They even put a monitor on the baby's head to make sure her heart rate was ok.

I was exhausted at this point so I asked for a c-section. A new nursing crew came through and the doctor thought this would be a good course of action at this point. Soon thereafter we were heading to the operating room!

Since I had been pumped full of so many medications and fluids, and had been awake for over 24 hours, I was barely myself or awake during the c-section. My memory of the birth itself is hazy at best. I remember being very lightheaded and having a very, very dry mouth. When I saw our beautiful girl I remember thinking WOW a girl! And WOW she looks big! (All 8lbs 3oz of her!) I was also so happy that my husband was there to hold her and be there for me throughout the process. I had been through a lot in the last 36 hours, so having him there was essential for me having the baby!

I also remember the nurse standing by my head during the delivery. She was not helpful and seemed confused in the process. (This is the point where the nursing staff goes downhill.)

After a successful c-section, we entered the recovery room. We were there a few hours. Within the last 30-45vminutes we were there, our nurse came in and told us that the hospital changed their visitor policy. They were no longer allowing support people due to COVIC-19 and my husband had to leave. Meaning he could not be with us the remainder of the day or the rest of our time in the hospital. This was the most heartbreaking news on the most joyous day. We both cried and said our goodbyes, as the baby and I were rolled to the postpartum unit.

That night, I had to put the baby in the nursery because I was literally too out of it to take care of her throughout the night by myself.

Thursday, March 19th

First thing I did when I got up was call to get my baby from the nursery. Forty-five minutes went by and no one came with my baby. I could barely get up by myself but mustered enough strength to walk out and ask WHERE IS MY BABY!? The nurses saw how upset I was and my baby came within a few more minutes. (If my husband was with me: 1) the baby could have stayed in our room, or 2) he could have easily walked down to the nursery and got her himself.) Throughout the day, I continued to call the nurses for help with big things and little things. Every time I asked for something it took at least 30-45 minutes for someone to come help me. Half of the things I asked help for was something that my husband could have helped with if he was there.

It was clear that the nursing staff was spread thin and very stressed. This just made me more stressed myself, as I was trying to care for a new baby and recover myself.

My husband and I had FaceTimed throughout the day so he got to see me and the baby. He suggested I get up and walk around which would make me feel better. This seemed like a good idea, so I started walking down the hall with the baby. This was when I saw another dad in the hallway!

I "walked" (more liked limped up) to the nurses station and asked if they changed the visitor policy and why there were dads on the floor. They all looked confused and said support people were allowed as long as they didn't leave the hospital. This is when I lost my shit on the nurses. There were a lot of tears and strong language. I needed one of them to explain to me why my husband was asked to leave and why these other dads were allowed to be on the floor. This then triggered a series of phone calls on the nurses' end and also from me to my husband. He was in the hospital lobby within 20 minutes of my call.

When he arrived at the hospital, my husband attempted to get past security but was told no visitors were allowed. He calmly explained that the Charge Nurse from the Recovery Floor told him via phone 20 minutes earlier to show up and she'd ensure he could get back in to see his family. At this time, a woman approached my husband and told him that he no visitors were allowed, so my husband asked for the person in charge of the hospital. The woman then replied that she was in charge of the hospital. My husband then explained the situation to the woman, but she insisted she was following CDC guidelines and that he had to leave. At this point, my husband lost his patience and told her she had a real problem on her hands and that the hospital had a communication issue and was not prepared to handle this situation. He then told her she was about to have a real bad night and that he wanted to speak with the hospital administrator. As the security guard came over, my husband then went even further by saying this hospital was going to have a field day when they figured out that I was a hospital and insurance lobbyist in DC. At this point, the woman called the Charge Nurse and explained the situation. She then apologized to my husband and let him up to see us!

After all was said and done, by 8:00 pm we had him in the hospital and the three of us were united once again! We then had a great night together at the hospital.

Friday, March 20th

Word had clearly spread about our situation the day prior. Our doctor knew what happened and so did the nurses that were not on the evening shift. They also began the process to discharge us from the hospital. That is a day early for c-sections. In fact, they were discharging everyone to leave one day early if there were no complications. I'm also sure they were ready to see us leave after the "trouble" we caused to get my husband back into the hospital.

By noon we were on our way home and couldn't be happier to get out of the hospital.

Post Hospital

After leaving the hospital, myself and the baby only go out for doctor appointments. The doctor offices only allow one family/person in the waiting room at a time due to coronavirus. Also, I had a virtual meetings with lactation consultants. We also have not had any visitors to the house - other than my parents. But the baby has met a lot of people through FaceTime.

Although we want to go out with the baby and want more family and friends to meet the baby, we also want to keep her safe.

Reflections

Having a baby during a pandemic is far from ideal. In fact, there are few situations that are worse. It was also clear to us that the hospital was not prepared for the pandemic. They were changing policies on what seemed like an hourly basis and clearly did not have a communication plan in place for staff. Leadership at the hospital also clearly rattled the staff. The nurses, personal care attendants, and other hospital workers were stressed and became increasingly freaked out during our time there.

We were lucky that the hospital did have enough personal protection equipment while we were there. We were also lucky that the baby was not born a week or two later when things started getting really crazy in New York. We feel very fortunate for that.

I totally understand that hospitals need to keep patients and workers staff. However, I do not believe that any woman should give birth and recover from birth by herself. I also think that if my husband was with me the entire time it would have freed up time for nurses because there were many things that he could have helped with that didn't need nurses.

Overall it was an emotional rollercoaster and also an emotionally draining time. However, we could not be more thankful and grateful for our healthy baby girl. And healthy parents.